Fires Grow in Flathead National Forest’s Wilderness

Release Date: Aug 18, 2011  

Smoke plumes visible in the Flathead valley yesterday originated from two fires, the Big Salmon Lake Fire and the Hammer Creek Fire, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Both fires, located on the Spotted Bear Ranger District, experienced rapid growth yesterday due to wind, terrain, and available fuels. The potential for future growth is high, as more heavy fuels remain in the area and the long-term forecast calls for seasonable temperatures with little precipitation.

The Big Salmon Lake Fire started on August 16, on the North side of Big Salmon Lake in the vicinity of Trail #110. The fire began at the base of a very steep slope. Yesterday, due to wind and terrain-induced speed, the fire spread rapidly up and across the slope to the northeast. The fire is estimated at 2,000 acres; its cause is under investigation.

The Hammer Creek Fire, located between Hammer Creek and the Big Prairie Ranger Station, also had significant activity yesterday. The fire grew from 248 acres to 1000 acres, predominately experiencing growth on the east side of the South Fork of the Flathead River. It is currently burning in mature timber with standing and fallen dead trees. It is moving into an area which burned in 2003, with considerable dead and down trees in its path.

The number one priority for both fires is to maintain public and firefighter safety. The Hammer Creek Fire is being managed for multiple objectives, including allowing the fire to play a natural role across the landscape in the wilderness, keeping the fire on the east side of the South Fork of the Flathead River, and specific point protection. The Big Salmon Lake Fire is being managed to confine and contain the fire, and to point protect values at risk.

There are numerous trail and road closures in the area due to fire activity. Visitors are strongly encouraged to contact the Spotted Bear Ranger Station (406-758-5376) for the most current updates. Additionally, backcountry uses are asked to check-in with one of our backcountry stations (Big Prairie, Salmon Fork, or Black Bear.)

Though not contributing significantly to yesterday’s smoke plumes, other fires continue in the area. The South Fork Lost Creek Fire, managed by a Type III Incident Command Team, is a 608 acre fire on the Swan Lake Ranger District near Thunderbolt Mountain, as well as on State land. The fire made some late runs yesterday in its South East corner. It continues burning in rough, extremely steep terrain. Ground crews have been focusing their work on the ground at the baseof the fire, while helicopters are dropping water to keep the fire subdued in the steep and treacherous higher grounds.

Plans are being made for a burn out to secure the South West corner of the fire. If conditions allow, the burn out is scheduled for tomorrow, August 19. Aerial ignition will be used to burn out approximately 400 acres north of the South Fork Lost Creek Road #680. There are several roads and trail closures in the area; contact the Swan Lake Ranger District at 406-837-7500 for more information.

The Peters Ridge Fire is also on the Swan Lake Ranger District near Strawberry Lake. Though on Forest Service land, the state is managing the fire. Three hot shot crews and two helicopters have been working to suppress this 10-acre fire, which has been relatively quiet the past few days. The crews have successfully established a line around the fire, which is currently 30 percent contained, and are now working toward the interior of the fire.

None of the fires pose a risk to the local communities. The fire danger in the valley is high, and the public is asked to be extra careful with cigarettes, campfires, and items which could cause a spark.


FlatheadNF Fire Update News Release Aug 18 2011.pdf